Jesus Gabriel Rodriguez, Jr. the one-time head of Transvalue, which provided transport services for precious metals and other valuables, admitted playing a pivotal role in an effort to smuggle gold into the country in a way that evaded anti-money rules and export bans.
Prosecutors say the 45-year-old Rodriguez and his company helped turn Miami into a major hub for enterprise that smuggled billions in gold into the U.S. from illegal mines all over South America, partly as a way to launder money for drug traffickers.
Illegal mining also often results in the destruction of wide swaths of rainforest and chemicals used in the process tend to leave the land barren for years after.
Rodriguez’s attorney declined to comment.
According to court documents, Rodriguez conspired with employees at Texas-based NTR Metals, a large refiner of gold in the U.S., to obscure the origins of gold being brought in through Miami International Airport.
The scheme, which operated between 2015 and 2016, involved thousands of kilograms of gold being flown into the U.S. from Curacao. As Curacao has no gold mines or processing facilities of its own, gold coming from there is considered to be mostly smuggled in by boat from Venezuela.
In 2018 , then-President Trump signed an executive order prohibiting anyone in the U.S. from dealing with gold procured from Venezuelan mines. NTR also prohibited the purchase of gold from Curacao due to its own anti-money laundering policies.
To get around this, prosecutors say Rodriguez arranged for the gold brought in by couriers from Curacao to then be sent to the Cayman Islands, before being brought back to the U.S.
Upon its return, Rodriguez was accused of arranging for customs documents to say the gold originated in the Cayman Islands.It would then be transported to NTR refineries in Florida and elsewhere and sold on to unwitting manufacturers of jewelry and other products that use gold.
“Complex money laundering schemes involve key players at every stage of the process,” said Juan Antonio Gonzalez, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida. “Corporate executives who facilitate money laundering while purportedly importing lawful goods at the transport and U.S. Customs stages do not get to hide behind their status as otherwise legitimate business owners. Like everyone else participating in these illegal schemes, they will be prosecuted.”
Three principal brokers at NTR pleaded guilty in 2017 to their roles in the scheme and have served time in prison. All three cooperated in the case against Rodriguez, court papers said. NTR paid a $15 million fine.
Rodriguez faces up to 24 months in federal prison for submitting false customs documents, and has agreed to hand over $267,000 to authorities, prosecutors said. He is scheduled to be sentenced in April.